Pick-a-Poem: Langston Hughes

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Hello, blog readers, and welcome to another weekly featured poem. Normally, we feature poetry from someone you may not have read before, hoping to introduce you to a new poet that you’ll learn to love. Today, however, we have a very well-known poet — Langston Hughes. This is a fitting feature as February is Black History Month. Langston Hughes is one of the most lauded black poets and one of the most lauded poets, period. Today we feature two of his poems, Proem and The Weary Blues.

According to the bio page on Poetry Daily, Langston Hughes‘ first poem to appear in a national publication was The Negro Speaks of Rivers, which appeared in The Crisis in 1921. During his life, he wrote many poems, short stories, essays, and plays. He was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1935, a Rosenwald Fellowship in 1940, and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Grant in 1947.

Proem by Langston Hughes

I am a Negro:
Black as the night is black,
Black like the depths of my Africa.

I’ve been a slave:
Caesar told me to keep his door-steps clean.
I brushed the boots of Washington.

I’ve been a worker:
Under my hand the pyramids arose.
I made mortar for the Woolworth Building.

I’ve been a singer:
All the way from Africa to Georgia
I carried my sorrow songs.
I made ragtime.

I’ve been a victim:
The Belgians cut off my hands in the Congo.
They lynch me now in Texas.

I am a Negro:
Black as the night is black,
Black like the depths of my Africa.

The Weary Blues by Langston Hughes

Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,
Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,
I heard a Negro play.
Down on Lenox Avenue the other night
By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light
He did a lazy sway . . .
He did a lazy sway . . .
To the tune o’ those Weary Blues.
With his ebony hands on each ivory key
He made that poor piano moan with melody.
O Blues!
Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool
He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool.
Sweet Blues!
Coming from a black man’s soul.
O Blues!
In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone
I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan—
“Ain’t got nobody in all this world,
Ain’t got nobody but ma self
I’s gwine to quit ma frownin’
And put ma troubles on the shelf.”
Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor.
He played a few chords then he sang some more—
“I got the Weary Blues
And I can’t be satisfied.
Got the Weary Blues
And can’t be satisfied—
I ain’t happy no mo’
And I wish that I had died.”
And far into the night he crooned that tune.
The stars went out and so did the moon.
The singer stopped playing and went to bed
While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.
He slept like a rock or a man that’s dead.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s featured poems. For more posts like this, click here!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

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2 thoughts on “Pick-a-Poem: Langston Hughes

  1. Carol; Wassberg February 11, 2015 / 2:05 pm

    Powerful. Thank you for reminding us of Langston Hughes today.

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